2024 marks the 20th year of Grant Thornton’s work to monitor and measure the proportion of women occupying senior management roles in mid-market companies around the world.

The Women in Business 2024 survey reflects a significant shift in the presence of women in senior management (SM) positions in India, at 34%, closely mirroring the global average of 33%. This marks a significant rise from just 12% in 2004 and 14% in 2014, despite a slight decrease from the 36% in 2023 and 38% in 2022.

Pallavi Joshi Bakhru"More women are pursuing higher education and are more inclined to join the workforce, marking a major cultural shift towards gender inclusivity."
Pallavi Joshi Bakhru, Partner and India-UK corridor leader, Grant Thornton Bharat

Percentage of women in senior management

*The survey was not conducted in 2005 and 2006.

Women in senior management: India vs Global

Within the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, the breakup reveals a comparable figure with Emerging APAC at 34% and a notable difference with Developed APAC at 24%. In India, a notably higher percentage of women hold Chief Executive Officer (CEO)/Managing Director roles at 34%, exceeding the global average of 19%. Additionally, women in India are prominently represented in Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Finance Officer (CFO) roles at 26% and 40%, respectively, surpassing global figures.

Women in senior management – India vs Global

Women in senior management – By role

Gender diversity in senior management

The three-year moving average up to 2024 reveals that 36% of Indian firms have women in SM positions. In 2024, only 3% of Indian businesses had no women in SM positions, while 6% had at least one woman in an SM position. This marks a significant improvement compared to previous years, with 35% of firms having no women in SM positions in 2004 and 42% in 2014. Globally, the figure for no women in SM positions in 2024 is 7%. 

Pallavi Joshi Bakhru"Measuring the number of women who have moved into senior management positions is very important to understand whether, internally, women are being championed to progress and move up the ladder."
Pallavi Joshi Bakhru, Partner and India-UK corridor leader, Grant Thornton Bharat

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) strategies key to women leadership

This figure compares favourably with global and regional averages, with 80% globally, 86% in emerging APAC, and 56% in developed APAC expressing confidence in their organisations' DE&I efforts.

Priyanka Gulati
“Without a strategy on DE&I, you won't have the backing of the senior leadership driving it. You need to have a clear path.”
Priyanka Gulati, Partner, Human Capital Consulting, Grant Thornton Bharat

Respondents commonly rely on several metrics when assessing the effectiveness of these strategies:

Who leads DE&I in Indian organisations?

A significant percentage of CEOs/Managing Directors, at 53.3%, lead and are responsible for DE&I efforts in India. The data also highlights varying levels of DE&I leadership across other roles, with Chief Operating Officers (COOs), Chief Finance Officers (CFOs), and Human Resources Directors also playing crucial roles. On a global scale, while the CEO/Managing Director remains a prominent leader in DE&I initiatives, the distribution is more diverse, with notable contributions from roles such as Human Resources Directors and Chief Marketing Officers.

Walking the path: Lead DE&I efforts from the top

Percentage of roles that lead and have responsibility for DE&I

Pathways to Parity: Back to office, a backwards step?

The survey findings suggest that working practices play a crucial role in shaping the representation of women in SM positions. Less flexibility in work models, such as the drop observed in India's figure for 2024, may have contributed to fluctuations in women's representation. Adopting hybrid models that offer a blend of onsite and remote working could help address this challenge.

Where do people currently work?

Pathways to Parity: Strategies for success

Mid-market women in senior management face slow progress, risking regression without swift change. Businesses can accelerate toward parity by taking actionable steps and following our three pathways:

Amidst a volatile economy and ongoing changes, the fragility of women in senior management within mid-market businesses is evident this year. Despite global instability, it is crucial not to lose sight of DEI efforts. Organisations must aim to safeguard the progress achieved over the past two decades and intensify efforts for gender parity amid potential challenges.